Hactl to test autonomous tractors on the ramp

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) has signed an agreement with Westwell Holdings to use Autonomous Electric Tractors (AETs) for ramp operations.

The AETs will be introduced later this year to carry out tasks such as towing cargo dollies, automatically coupling and uncoupling the dollies and adjusting to their different specifications.

Once testing, on-site tuning and mapping has been completed, the AETs will be integrated into Hactl’s tractor fleet and will tow loaded import ULDs on a 1km route between the outdoor ULD staging area and main terminal ULD system intake deck of SuperTerminal 1.

They will be used on longer and more complex routes in due course.

The AETs are equipped with a highly accurate GNSS system and use multiple HD cameras and LiDAR sensors to detect objects and avoid collisions.

They have similar capabilities due diesel-powered units and their speed has been limited to 8kph as an additional safety measure.

The electric-powered AETs have a range of 75km per charge, making a contribution to Hactl’s carbon reduction programme.

Wilson Kwong, Chief Executive of Hactl says recruitment, particularly for airside tasks, is getting more challenging so existing staff need to be deployed as efficiently as possible.

He said: “After extensive investigation and research, we believe that the work of operating towing tractors over set routes should now be feasible using the latest autonomous vehicle technology, and that this can be achieved without compromising safety. Although driverless vehicles are becoming established technology, Hactl is enhancing the concept with the addition of automated functions specific to its needs.”

Kenny Tan, Chairman of Westwell, added: “Handling facilities are crucial elements in the logistics chain. Westwell will leverage the latest artificial intelligence technology and clean energy, to assist Hactl in building a fully automated cargo terminal integrating green, intelligent, and efficient features.”

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